Study Finds Steady Employee Engagement Despite the Recession

by: Nichole Gunn April 7, 2011

Employees faced trying times throughout the recession. Layoffs and salary cuts plagued many, which in turn created anxiety and fear. And to add to the burden, employees didn’t have any recourse in finding other work in the down economy if they were laid off. This situation led businesses to believe employee engagement was held hostage and had to certainly take a hit. But, a recent study from Gallup creates doubt as to whether this it true.

The study found that employee engagement remained relatively stable throughout 2008 and 2009. These two years were deep within the recession, but throughout workers felt sure that their employers established and maintained a trusting workplace environment.

Statistics from the study demonstrated that 65 percent of workers in 2008 felt confident in their work environment, and 61 percent in 2009. Interestingly, this time period had the nation’s workers losing jobs at startling rate, yet according to the study, employee loyalty held steadfast.

Despite the relatively stable employee engagement and loyalty levels, fear over keeping up with the cost of living affected well over half of the workers. During 2008, statistically the hardest hit year of the recession, 60 percent of employees were concerned about meeting monthly expenses and debts, struggling to stretch each pay check as far as it would go. Fortunately, more recently that rate fell to 44 percent.

On the whole, the study confirmed that employers kept employees happy throughout the recession. Employee recognition and employee loyalty were noteworthy factors in appeasing job security concerns and personal financial worries. While thousands of companies found it necessary to let employees go, statistics prove that employee satisfaction remained steady for the workers who remained.

Confirming the Gallup study, Kelly International, a leader in business development, conducted a 2010 study consisting of 134,000 respondents. In regard to employee loyalty, the study showed that during 2010, 52 percent of workers throughout North America remained strongly committed to their place of employment. Twenty-seven percent felt their enhanced loyalty was directly related to the recession itself.

Kelly Services executive vice president and chief operating officer George Corona reported, "Many organizations have been through an extremely difficult period but some have managed the challenges in a positive way and have emerged with a new level of trust among the workforce."